I had the day off work today. It was nice. In the morning I went with my wife and youngest and we walked along the beach for a bit, and released some crabs we’d accidentally collected a few days earlier while shell hunting.

Having the day off of work I had actually decided to do a project that I could blog on tonight. I am still working on methods of getting a model from the computer to the physical world. I’ve done a few 3D prints, but I wanted to try a different method.

I wanted to try this method I read in Make: Specifically, I wanted to try this article where they make a paper model and then cover it in fiberglass resin and bondo. So today I wanted to test just the make a paper model part.

A few days ago I had done a little test model (which turned out to look like a WWI grenade 😬), but I wanted to try something more complicated today. So I made this cute dodgy little airship:

A simple 3d rendered Airship in a more fantasy style.

I converted this to a flat model with Pepakura and the printed this out on a piece paper with my Silhouette Cameo (forgive me for being light on the details, but I will go in depth on that for tomorrow’s post!)

I glued the paper to some cardboard for some more rigidity in the model and then cut out every single piece by hand. In case you were wondering how many pieces there are…

A screen shot from Pepakura Designer showing all the pieces to be cut out. There is some blue and pink highlight on certain parts with which I will talk about later.

It took quite some time, but I powered through it and I was excited to finally get started. And that’s when stuff started to fall apart.

The first issue I had was sizing. Those windows ended up being incredibly tiny, so the panes between interior room and exterior window (which are highlighted in pink) were also tiny. This meant that they were a pain to fold correctly, and when I did fold them they would just come unglued from the force of the cardboard trying to flatten out again. (Although, now that I think about it I could have easily squished the entire piece flat and stuck something heavy on top while it dried and then bend them back into shape with no real damage…)

The next issue I had was the small tabs on that are highlighted blue. I actually came up with a method to cut them pretty well and relatively quickly. What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that the cardboard was too thick to fold along such tiny tabs. So after quite some time of cutting I ended up just cutting them all off anyway.

And the final real issue I faced was the fact that the cardboard was peeling apart into different layers. I did not use quality cardboard, it was simply the left over box from the burrito kit we used a few nights ago. It was not designed for crafting, it was designed to be as cheap as possible. Apparently this also meant as little glue between the shiny cardboard and the rest of the cardboard as possible.

So, today, I did not make a model. I had a collection of failures. Before I became infatuated with this plane building craze I would have just given up and shelved the whole thing. I am very much one of those people who will stop pursuing something if it does not come naturally to them. However, none of these failures felt like the end. Without sounding too much like our lightbulb friend, it felt like I learned how not to do it.

And this is an interesting thing for me because, honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that before. At work if something doesn’t work I kinda grind away at it until I get some working abomination. I really hope I can remember this feeling and apply to other areas of my life, and maybe I wouldn’t give up on so many projects and hobbies.

So, in the end, what did my failures teach me? It taught me that I should get a sense of scale when I design stuff. I could do this by drawing a few pieces to scale by hand and see how it feels. Or possibly cut out just a handful of the pieces and make them first, see if they look right.

Another thing I learned was that tabs can be too small, and if they are, just get rid of them! Or if the tab is required then make it bigger so it actually folds.

Finally, I learnt that blindly trusting materials is a bad idea. I really should have given that carboard box a bit of a fold or two and seen how well I could glue it.

Like I said before, tomorrow I’ll talk a bit more about my process of going from 3D model to cut outs! 🍀